It is clear that the skills that brought us through the 20th Century have not prepared us for the next 100 years. Or even the next decade.
Technology, social media and consumerisation has disrupted industry after industry, and while marketing operates in most firms at the forefront of customer experience, many marketers feel out of their depth with the vast array of skills and capabilities that are required. The disruption adds to the anxiety that ripples out across the organisation.
Over the last year I have spoken at conferences and forums in Australia and internationally, consulted with organisations and governments and helped develop new capability roadmaps, skilling programs and events. And the challenges and fears are largely the same.
What I have found, is that this anxiety is reverberating far beyond the marketing department. In the 21st Century, we are all marketers, and we are unprepared for this new future.
In response, I have written an eBook that builds on a series of blog posts and articles, observations, projects and presentations that I have made throughout the year. It looks at the shifting landscape and suggests ways forward for individuals and teams.
This eBook is available for immediate download as a PDF.
Way back in 2009, Mark Pollard and I set out to change the online conversation about men’s health, depression, suicide and alcohol dependency. As part of the Inspire Foundation’s Manweek campaign, we collected stories that would help reinvent manhood. We even had author of Manhood and Raising Boys, Steve Biddulph write an introduction.
This is one hell of a book. Born out of a triple j week focusing on men’s lives, and created by its listeners, it’s a remarkable piece of work.
A man’s life, whether he is 18 or 80, can start to go badly. And often, after that, it just gets worse. How to turn your life around is a serious concern. The men who write these gutsy, honest, emotionally vulnerable stories create an excitement and energy in the reader, because they have faced the dragon of their own pain, and won. They got help, they dived in, they didn’t give up, and they trusted the power of their hearts to bring them through.
Every kind of man, every single style of writing, with pictures, cartoons, short and punchy, you will find bits of yourself all over these pages. Read it and weep. It will change you.l
We know that around this time of year – when we celebrate Christmas and head into the holiday season – some men find themselves isolated and struggling. The book, The Perfect Gift for a Man, was written specifically for them. And it remains as powerful and as relevant today as it did in 2009.
We don’t have to look far to see that we are living in a digital world. On my desk sits half a dozen connected devices, wifi enabled, flashing, beeping, spewing updates from sites, friends and acquaintances thousands of miles away. But for me, this is a world that I have chosen to participate. For many in the Gen X and Baby Boomer demographics, adoption of technology has been a conscious choice. We grapple with this changing world for work or for pleasure – sometimes for both … but always with the knowledge that the off button is only a short distance away.
But for succeeding generations – the always connected Gen Y and Gen Z groups, there has never been a time of “non-connection”. A battery or wifi failure is not just a technical issue. It’s an existential crisis.
In May 2012, when young Chinese student, Xiao Zheng, sold his kidney in order to buy an iPad2, the headlines around the world amplified the outrage. From the outside it’s easy to point a finger and call out the insatiable materialistic desires of a morally bankrupt generation. But surely there is something deeper going on.
Graham Brown’s new book The Mobile Youth digs below the surface to reveal a compelling story of dis-ease. Peppered with statistics, insight – and most importantly – an anthropologist-cum-storytellers eye for observation, Graham reveals a hard truth that we all share in:
The rise of technology isn’t undermining the social fabric of society. Technology’s rise is a response to our loss of a meaningful social world.
As a reader of a lot of business communication (books, blogs, papers, presentations), I am often disappointed that the power of the writing doesn’t match the power of the ideas. This book is the opposite. It’s a business book written in the style of a page-turning blockbuster. For anyone interested in the changes taking place in our society and the collision of generations, culture and communication, it makes for compelling reading.
But most importantly, it provides an insight into the seemingly disconnected nature of our ever-more connected lives. Download your copy of The Mobile Youth and let me know what you think. I found it fascinating.
Have you ever wanted to see your name in print? Do you have ideas you’d like to share with a global audience? This may be the opportunity that you have been waiting for!
Over the last four years, Drew McLellan and I have instigated and published three books exploring the Age of Conversation. These crowdsourced books have brought together over 400 authors, raised more that $50,000 for charity, and provided many people with the opportunity to see their names and ideas in print.
After our third book, the Age of Conversation 3: It’s Time to Get Busy!, we thought that the series may have reached it’s natural end point. But now, two years later, we believe there may be still more to explore. And this time, it’s PERSONAL.
Once again, we are throwing the doors open. If you have an idea that you’d like to share with us, we’d love to have you join us.
How does this work?
Nominate for a topic area using this form (please choose three topics – as we have a lot of authors to accommodate, we need to ensure the coverage is spread)
We will advise you of the area
Write a 400 word chapter (no longer please) or 750 word case study and send it through
We will edit and curate the flow of the chapters
The book will be produced on-demand and be ready to promoted
If you have a case study that you can share, we’d love to have it. BUT … this needs to be YOUR case study. They need to be projects that you have worked on or have been responsible for. You must include measurable results of some sort. We’re not going to get into the whole ROI discussion … but you need to show how it played out. Please don’t propose case studies based on other people’s work.
Where do I sign up for the Age of Conversation #4?
I dare say I could find many others who have produced a similar amount of content. Or more. After all, there are many people far more prolific than I.
But whether you write one article a day or one article a month, I'm wondering – do you re-read your writings?
I know I do – but perhaps not as much as I should.
I am reading Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, and I have been struck by the linkages between writing, review and breakthrough ideas. He uses the example of the "common place book" – a book of ideas, cross-referenced by the author to improve memory. Interestingly, Johnson explains how Charles Darwin's theories benefited from this process, allowing him to formulate, refine and build upon ideas over time. This is what Johnson calls the “slow hunch”.
Now, it seems that blogs with their readily available tagging structure and inbuilt search functions are like commonplace books on steroids. But who amongst us use them in this way? How many of us revisit a category area each time we sit down to write our next post?
Not me. But then, I think i'll change this approach. I have a hunch that I am going to unearth some valuable slow hunches in the process.
When I worked in Agencyland, games were part of my everyday working life. I spent a great deal of time working elements of game play into the strategies that I was developing for clients, coming up with ideas for new, short, casual games and working with my team of developers responsible for turning these ideas into games that kids would love.
The first person that I hired into my team was Terry Paton – and I learned a great deal about games, game design and user interaction from him. He had a deep love of games and would constantly look for ways to improve the gaming experience. His approach was to make games that were simple to play but difficult to master – and it was an approach which we would learn to apply to almost every aspect of our work – from web and premium design right through to communications strategy.
For a couple of years, we focused on the idea of “play” – of what would capture, engage and stimulate the people coming to the websites that we would produce. We thought long and hard about what worked, we tested ways to surprise and delight and we relentlessly measured “plays”, high scores and ratings, pass-ons, level achievement and “time in game”.
We essentially focused on behaviours that rewarded the player. And, in turn, those players rewarded us with their time, attention and competitiveness. It was a win-win (oh and a win for the brand too!).
But there was something in the nature of play that fascinated me, even though I had moved out of the B2C space. It seemed obvious that the B2B world sorely needed a jolt – and play seemed the answer. So, a couple of years ago I started (but never finished) a series on the future of your brand – and the first future that I saw was “play” – power, learning, adventure and the “yelp” of delight.
Recently, I read Aaron Dignan’s Game Frame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success, and found a thorough investigation into the nature of play and how it can be (and is being) incorporated into our working lives. While it is easy to think that this book is about engaging Gen Y in the workplace, to do so would be to undersell it. The lessons and explanations apply universally. This isn’t a book for a new generation, it’s a book for anyone who is seeking to motivate and engage others. And because it applies principles that we already understand (gaming) to the world of business, it frames work in a completely new way.
Imagine … just imagine that your employees didn’t say “I’m going to work” – but said instead, “I’m getting my game on”. Now, that would really change the game!
Oh, and if you want to learn more about Aaron’s approach – check out this video of his recent speech – Why the Future of Work is Play. I couldn’t agree more.
If you are like me, you can tell from the first line of a book whether you think it will capture you. Peter Guber’s Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story was one of those books that not only had me at the first line. It was like a Dan Brown book – but for business – one compelling story after another, urging me to speed, ever faster, through the pages towards the end.
Peppered with personal anecdotes, this book is all about the art of storytelling, for business. It starts with a failure – Guber’s own – where his pitch to the Mayor of Las Vegas falls short and he is reminded that there is only one chance to make a positive first impression. From this dramatic and embarrassing start, Guber takes us through his personal history, showing how storytelling underpinned his successes – and how a lack of storytelling ensured his failures. Along the way, there are quotes and examples from writers, doctors and business people of all persuasion.
For some readers, there won’t be enough detail in this book. Guber doesn’t dive deep into the research. But he does demonstrate precisely why and how the power of a good story wins out anyway – his own narrative uses facts to illustrate his points, but they never overwhelm. They never distract.
While reading, I was constantly reminded of the best TED talks. I was reminded of the way that these great business leaders would engage us deeply with an issue that was dear to their hearts. They would make us laugh and make us cry. Not with the bald facts – which were often heartbreaking – but with the stories that show the human impact of those facts. Peter Guber’s book explains how these style of stories are crafted – how they are hung together. Then it’s up to you to give it a try.
To be honest, telling a story is scary. We can all hide behind the facts and the figures, but a story has a personal dimension. You tell it at a personal cost – and live or die (win or lose your pitch) by the story’s sword. My own experience is the same – where I have trusted in the story, I have succeeded. And where I doubted my story and pushed the facts, I lost. Reading this book, has in a way, reaffirmed for me the primacy of story. And that too is a success.
Now tell me your story and win
The publisher of Tell to Win sent me an extra copy of this book to review. This could be yours. Tell me your best business story in the comments below – or email me. The best story (in my opinion) will win a copy of the book. You’ve got until Wednesday at midnight (Sydney time).
Oh, and if you can’t wait, order a copy at Amazon.
I read a lot of business books. Not as many as my friend, Drew McLellan (who seems to be a reading machine), but quite a lot. I read them because they give me thinking time away from the computer – and because they force me to think in a sustained way, about a topic for an extended period. In this way, books remain – for me at least – an important way of continuously learning.
I once heard that the average American reads a book a year. Amazingly, Australia seems to care so little about books we don’t do studies of this kind (so I have no comparable figures)! I try to read a book a month (sometimes more). In five years time, that other person will have read five books. I’ll have read 60. That makes a huge difference.
Despite the books that I read, and despite the fact that they are written by brilliant people, most business books fail to capture me. I’m always looking for that little something extra in the writing. I’m looking for a little enchantment. The enterpreneur’s entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki, understands this – and in his new book, The Art of Enchantment: How to Woo, Influence and Persuade, he had me from the first line - a quote from economist John Maynard Keynes:
The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.
This is a business book that not only instructs – it does what it says on the label – it enchants. The book constantly challenges us by taking a turn when the road ahead seems straight. I often think of this as a way to “surprise and delight” people – but enchantment goes deeper. Where '”surprise and delight” hovers on the surface – as the effect – enchantment is that fundamental transformation that takes place in a person. It changes our hearts first and then our minds.
But how does this happen?
Guy takes observations of the business landscape, overlays them with analysis and then provides a step-by-step explanation of how enchantment can be used in each of these business scenarios. He explains how to enchant your employees, your boss – or anyone you come in contact with. The book shows the steps you can take to look deeply and act deeply – to create change and make it last. After all, you can’t make someone do something – they have to want to do it. The key to this, of course, is Enchantment. Use it wisely.
When Drew McLellan and I pulled together the first The Age of Conversation book with 100 of the world’s leading bloggers, social media was still a rough and ready frontier. Two more editions and three years later, many of us are still having the same conversations – partly because more businesses and more people are beginning to see value in the space, but also because innovation is like a spiral, folding back on itself in ever more complex ways.
With this in mind, I thought I’d publish here, my article from the first book – the Promiscuous Idea. To me, it still feels as relevant as it did in 2007. If you haven’t got a copy, consider buying one. It’s a great primer – and all the profits (still) go to a great cause.
The Promiscuous Idea
We are living in a time of proliferation. Never before has the marketplace of ideas been so free, the barriers to entry so low and the willingness to collaborate so powerful. In moments, a concept can be explained, shared and tracked on a single blog — on the other side of the world, this idea can be modified, expanded upon and discussed. Seconds pass and more voices are heard — a version transmutes into new forms … being picked up as a podcast, a video, an older-style presentation deck. From a single creative impulse, a legion of additions, modifications and transmutations can spread in minutes, hours, days and weeks.
Even months later an idea can come full circle. Someone, somewhere can stumble upon a “stale” idea, investing it with new energy, new context and a new perspective and the cycle of proliferation begins again. What this means is that our ideas are constantly in a process of reinvention.
What links an idea and draws us to it is the “story”. And the power and gravitational pull of the story brings us back to it time and again. In the Age of Conversation, whether we are marketers, activists, educators, politicians, academics or citizens of the world, we are all becoming the connected storytellers of this new era. This presents new challenges but also significant opportunities for brands, consumers and communities.
We are now dealing with a different type of story. Where once we had a beginning, middle and end, as readers and storytellers we can fall into a story at any point. We can link into the middle of a raging debate or witness the genesis of an idea that can change the world, and the narrative that we are dealing with is no longer linear but multi-textual, layered, overlapping and promiscuous. The ideas and stories care not for their creator but freely leap from one mind to the next — sometimes appearing simultaneously across the globe — with storytellers tapping into a powerful worldwide zeitgeist.
The new art of conversation relies not on a sense of ownership but on a willing openness on the part of storytellers of all kinds. In fact, the jealous storyteller may well find that “their” ideas, brands, concepts or other “intellectual property” will laughingly thumb its nose at its creator and walk off, hand-in-hand with the idea-next-door. Whether we like it or not, our brands, ideas and stories are no longer our own … they are out there promiscuously reinventing themselves word by word.
One of the most powerful ways of engaging people, creating change and yes, transforming the world in which we live, is to tell stories. From Homer to Perez Hilton, from the Bible to the Simpsons, stories continue to shape our lives. And at the heart of the story has always been the desire to connect – between the author and the reader, the storyteller and the audience. This strange, sometimes antagonistic bond is as much part of the storytelling tradition as words themselves.
Interestingly, the production and distribution of stories also seems to have come full circle. We started with the bards who would memorise, distribute and share Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for a few sheckels. One has to ask, “was the fall of Troy really a military victory or a massively successful word of mouth campaign?” It took Heinrich Schliemann centuries to uncover the truth.
Realising that knowledge and power were close bed fellows, the church accumulated vast stores of manuscripts. Cloistered away in abbeys across Europe, monks copied and created, philosophised and imagined – all the while contributing to a precious body of knowledge protected by the fortress-like walls of places like the Vatican Library.
Centuries of work would be swept away with the invention of the printing press, beginning a process which would not just share knowledge but transform our very notion of intelligence. Matching the newly literate population’s thirst for knowledge, whole industries sprang up – schools, printing houses, publishers – and of course, the mass media. Each of these cordoned off a market of their own in an attempt to capitalise on the changes coursing their way through society’s veins. Walls sprang up, money exchanged hands. The knowledge drug had us all hooked.
A century or two on, these walls are also crumbling. In minutes we can create our own blogs and websites, write our own stories and share them with the world. And with sites like Blurb.com, we can take these stories and share in the great literary and social phenomenon of authoring a book.
Last year, Mark Pollard and I, concerned at the mental health and substance abuse issues confronting young men, we reached out to colleagues, friends and family, asking for their stories and their experiences. We pulled it together into a powerful collection of short stories entitled The Perfect Gift for a Man. We published is using the Blurb.com self-publishing platform, donating the money raised to the Inspire Foundation’s Reach Out program.
Projects like this are now much easier for qualifying not-for-profit organisations. Blurb for Good enables citizen philanthropists to create, market and sell books – with a special page in the Blurb bookstore, and access to the BookShow widget (see below).
But how easy is it? I used the Blurb BookSmart software to create a family holiday picture book in about three hours. I had the photos and an idea and I got it done. You can too.
But the best thing about this, for me, is that NFP authors can apply to Blurb to receive an additional contribution from Blurb for every book sold. So, not only do you keep 100% of the profits from the sale of the book, you get access to a secure online shopfront, tools to help you market your book and a little extra cash to help change the world. Sound good? Check out Blurb for Good. Happy book making!